@MWC: Anti-smartphones keep it simple

18 Feb 2011

After a week of hype over tablets and 3D phones and WAC apps and data explosions and the cloud, it only seemed fair that the last blog post of the week should highlight that rarest of creatures: an anti-smartphone that does voice and SMS and nothing else.

Austria-based Emporia, which began in 2004, is showcasing its line of handsets that are ostensibly designed for senior citizens and the visually impaired that emphasize simplicity – a large keypad, a hot key for locking it, and on one model, a dedicated button for emergency calls.

The selling point for Emporia phones is to “connect the unconnected” says Emporia CMO Karin Schaumberger – by which she means users who are in older demographics, or who are disabled, have color blindness or are hard of hearing, to name a few examples.

“We go on a journey with these users to find out how they use phones and how we can connect them in a way that’s easy for them,” she said.

“Some people only make less than one call a week, some people just want one for a sense of security in case they need to call for help, and some people might not want a camera in their phone, but they might want to be able to receive MMS messages with pictures sent from family members or friends.”

In the Netherlands, she added, “Some people use it as a second phone, where they use a smartphone during the week, and then turn it off for the weekend and use our phone.”

As a private company Emporia doesn’t release financial data, but Schaumberger said that Emporia has a 4% handset market share in its home market of Austria (where Apple’s iPhone has the same market share, she claims), and that Vodafone and T-Mobile carry various models.

Schaumberger said that Emporia is also looking at emerging markets as well such as India (via Vodafone), even though the phone carries a higher price tag than low-end phones from handset makers like Nokia. “But there is a market segment there as well that will be able to afford them, and there are also people who find even Nokia’s low-cost phones too be too complicated for things like how to lock the keypad. ”

Schaumberger added that Emporia is talking to SmarTone-Vodafone to assess its chances in the Hong Kong market.

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